A lupine spin on the typical, tone-deaf appropriation narrative.

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WEREGIRL

From the Weregirl series , Vol. 1

A white teen discovers a shape-shifting ability along with dangerous secrets.

High school junior Nessa Kurland desperately wants a cross-country track scholarship to secure not only her access to college, but also her escape from her small, chemically polluted, no-future town. She needs to be faster and trains when she can around school, her job at the vet, and taking her autistic brother for treatments in the local clinic. But things change rapidly once Nessa is bitten by a wolf: the wound heals miraculously, her senses begin to sharpen, and her speed improves dramatically almost overnight—the downside being that she also transforms into a white wolf at the new and full moons. Seeking guidance from a Native American practitioner of shamanism (his tribal affiliation is unspecified) and spending time with a wolf pack in the woods, Nessa begins to understand why the wolves chose her. Nessa’s confrontation with the dark truths about her town falls flat in a rushed ending that seems more intent on a sequel than a resolution. Flatter still is the cultural dissonance. Despite its (generic) borrowing of sacred Native American cultural myths, the narrative is more invested in its multiple, complex wolf characters than in the two identified Native characters, who remain simple, expositional (and even magical) helpers, conveniently out of the way through the majority of the text. These characters’ rejection of a monolithic view of Native peoples is, ironically, undermined by the text’s failure to acknowledge their specific heritages.

A lupine spin on the typical, tone-deaf appropriation narrative. (Paranormal thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937133-55-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Chooseco

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots.

ASH PRINCESS

From the Ash Princess series , Vol. 1

The daughter of a murdered queen plots to take back what is hers.

With her country seized and her mother, the Fire Queen of Astrea, murdered by invaders when she was only 6 years old, Theodosia has been a prisoner for 10 years, stripped of her crown, her people enslaved. Theo (renamed Thora by her captors) is at the mercy of the Kaiser—the fearsome ruler of the Kalovaxians—enduring his malicious whims in order to survive. But when the Kaiser forces Theo to execute her own father, survival is no longer good enough, and she finally takes up the mantle of queen to lead her people’s rise to resistance in a land saturated in elemental magic. Debut author Sebastian has invigorated some well-worn fantasy tropes (a displaced heir, an underground rebellion, and a love triangle that muddies the distinctions between enemies and allies), delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization even as it leaves sequel-primed gaps. Some details—like Theo’s crisis of identity and Hamletian indecision—work well to submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot; others, like racialized descriptions that fall short of actual representation (Atreans are dark-haired and olive-skinned, Kalovaxians are blond and pale-skinned) and the use of magic-induced madness for narrative shock and awe feel lazy and distracting among more nuanced elements.

“Cinderella” but with genocide and rebel plots. (Fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6706-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Bound to be popular.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES

From the Ember in the Ashes series , Vol. 1

A suddenly trendy trope—conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races—enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!).

In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance—her parents were its leaders—but when her grandparents are killed and her brother’s captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant’s not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there’s betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world.

Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59514-803-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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